SOSMentor’s first nutrition education and physical activity program, ShapeUp, was developed in 2006 in response to the overwhelming concern voiced by high school students about the dangers of obesity and Type 2 diabetes to their health and the health of their families. The program has since reached over 6,500 underserved students in 50 schools.
In 2014, the program’s name was changed to Imagine HEALTH (Healthy Eating, Active Living, Total Health) when SOSMentor partnered with Dr. Marc Weigensberg and the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in a three-year study for the National Institutes of Health that combined the ShapeUp nutrition and exercise program with stress-reduction techniques. The goal of the study was to investigate whether guided imagery and stress-reduction skills can reduce stress hormone levels in high-risk students, and improve their ability to make healthier lifestyle choices. The addition of the stress reduction element allows SOSMentor to expand its health and wellness goals, and increase its impact on the students it serves.
Imagine HEALTH provides a series of 22 sessions over a 12-week period. During the first six weeks, a certificated teacher and a Dietetic Student Intern lead nutrition workshops for high school students. Mentors from the community work with students to help them find ways to make healthier choices and practice mindfulness when eating. A certified trainer also leads students in fun physical activities. During the last six weeks of the program, the high school students mentor younger students at a nearby elementary school, passing on what they’ve learned.
Studies have shown that this “train the trainer” mentoring strategy effectively creates healthy habits in children. High school students reinforce the information by teaching it, and younger students are more receptive to information coming from a peer. Older students also develop important--often life-altering--leadership skills and reap the psychological benefits of acting as a role model.
SOSMentor’s mission is to empower underserved youth to make healthy choices. We deliver innovative nutrition and fitness education that inspires kids to advocate for health in their schools, families, and communities.